Does Simeon Proviso East rank amongst best ever?


Does Simeon Proviso East rank amongst best ever?

Where does Simeon's 50-48 victory over Proviso East for the Class 4A championship rank among the most exciting and dramatic games in the history of the Illinois basketball tournament?

Surely, old-timers are pressed to recall two more athletic and quicker teams matched against each other in a state final. In the early going, it wasn't pretty with both teams playing out of control and trying to out-run and out-jump the other. By the fourth quarter, however, they got it right.

It can be argued that this was the best of Simeon coach Robert Smith's five state champions with Jabari ParkerSteve Taylor and more size, speed and depth than the Derrick RoseTim Flowers teams. But was it better than Bob Hambric's 1984 state champion with Tim BankstonBen Wilson?

As a game that kept you in your chair and away from the refrigerator for the entire second half, however, SimeonProviso East was an attention-getter, a page-turner full of suspense. How will the story end? Can Simeon rally? Can Proviso East hold them off? Who is Sterling Brown? Will they go into overtime?

It probably ranks among the top 10 games in state tournament history, certainly one of the best state finals ever. But it doesn't rank at the top of the list. With an assist to historian Pat Heston of Cahokia, Illinois, here is a list of the most entertaining and exciting and dramatic games dating to the 1940s:
1. Carver 53, Centralia 52, 1963 championship: Centralia was ranked No. 1. Carver was a five-time loser and unranked. Carver coach Larry Hawkins pulled 5-foot-7 sophomore Anthony Smedley off the bench in the closing seconds to bolster his defense. "Steal the ball," he told him. Smedley stole the ball from Centralia star Herb Williams and sank a game-winning shot from the corner.
2. East St. Louis Lincoln 59, Peoria Central 57, 3 OT, 1989 Class AA championship: Peoria Central was unbeaten. East St. Louis Lincoln was seeking its third state title in a row. Vincent Jackson's buzzer-beating shot from the top of the circle in the third overtime was the difference.
3. Morgan Park 45, West Aurora 44, 1976 Class AA championship: West Aurora led by seven points with two minutes to play but Morgan Park rallied behind Levi Cobb and Laird Smith. On a jump ball in front of West Aurora's basket with five seconds left, Cobb tipped to Smith, who made a 17-footer for the game-winner.

4. Mount Carmel, 46, Springfield Lanphier 44, 2 OT, 1985 Class AA championship: Led by Ed Horton, Illinois' Mr. Basketball, Lanphier had upset defending state champion Simeon in the quarterfinals and was favored to win its second state title in three years. But Mount Carmel, after blowing an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, prevailed in the second overtime on sophomore Derrick Boyd's last-second basket.

5. West Rockford 61, Elgin 59, 1955 championship: Trailing by 13 points at halftime, West Rockford rallied in bizarre fashion, scoring six points in one second to turn the tide. Nolden Gentry scored and was fouled after the shot, converting two free throws. Rex Parker was fouled on the in-bounds play and made two free throws to tie. Later, Gentry tipped in John Wessels' missed shot with 14 seconds remaining to win the game.

6. Mendel 53, Quincy 52, 1982 Class AA semifinals: Unbeaten and top-ranked Quincy, led by Bruce Douglas and Dennis Douglas, was heavily favored to win its second state title in a row. But Mendel snapped the Blue Devils' 64-game winning streak 53-52 in the semifinals on Mike Hampton's game-winning basket. With time left for only a desperation play, coach Jerry Leggett called for an alley-oop pass that Douglas tipped off the rim. In the third place game, they executed the same play to beat Marshall.
7. Hebron 64, Quincy 59, OT, 1952 championship: It was the first televised game in tournament history. Jack Drees and Chick Hearn were the announcers. Hebron, with only 98 students, the smallest school ever to win the state title, edged Quincy and Bruce Brothers in overtime as 6-foot-10 Bill Schulz scored 24 points. The Judson twins, Paul and Phil scored 25 between them.

8. Centralia 35, Paris 33, 1942 championship: After being upset in the semifinals in 1941 by Morton of Cicero, Centralia and Dike Eddleman were determined to bounce back in 1942. But the Orphans trailed unbeaten Paris by 13 points with five minutes to play but rallied to win 35-33 as Eddleman scored 16 points and was the tournament's leading scorer.

9. Collinsville 66, Centralia 64, 1961 supersectional at Salem: In a duel between the two top-rated teams in the state, unbeaten Collinsville prevailed with Bogie Redmon and Fred Riddle. Bob Simpson stole the ball in the closing seconds to preserve the victory.
10. West Rockford 66, Galesburg 64, 2 OT, 1956 supersectional at Moline: Galesburg's Mike Owens scored 29 points but West Rockford, on its way to a second state title in a row, prevailed on Nolden Gentry's game-winning tip with two seconds to play. West Rockford was rated No. 1 in the state, Galesburg No. 3.

11. Lockport 42, St. Laurence 41, 1978 sectional semifinal at Downers Grove North: Lockport was unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the state. St. Laurence was unbeaten and ranked No. 2. Lockport won on Chuck Travis' basket. Jim Stack's last-second, half-court shot bounced off the rim. Lockport, led by Scott Parzych, went on to win the state title.

12. La Grange 83, Kankakee 74, 1953 sectional semifinal at Joliet: It was called the "Battle of the Decade," with unbeaten and top-ranked Kankakee and Harv Schmidt pitted against Ted Caiazza and third-rated and unbeaten La Grange. The 6-foot-6 Schmidt scored 37 points but Caiazza, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior, had 31 points and 14 rebounds as La Grange prevailed. Chuck Sedgwick scored 18, converting 16 of 19 free throws.

13. Decatur 73, Galesburg 72, OT, 1945 quarterfinals: Second-ranked Decatur, with Bob "Chick" Doster, fell behind Galesburg 22-11 and trailed by three with eight seconds to play when 6-foot-7 center George Riley intercepted a pass, was fouled and made a free throw. Doster's 10-footer at the buzzer forced overtime. Trailing by one with 14 seconds left, Doster made the game-winner. Decatur went on to beat top-rated Champaign for the state title.

14. Pekin 50, Cobden 45, 1964 championship: Cobden was the darling of the tournament. The senior class including six basketball players and 17 other students. Until then, nobody knew what an Appleknocker was. Before the game, team mascot Roger Burnett place five apples at center court and received a five-minute ovation. But Pekin, led by Dave Golden, broke out to a 15-8 lead in the first quarter and held on to win.

15. Galesburg 73, Benton 71, 1966 quarterfinals: Unbeaten and top-ranked Benton, led by Rich Yunkus and Jim Adkins, was the favorite. But Galesburg snapped the Rangers' 31-game winning streak on Dale Kelley's 30-footer with nine seconds to play. One of the state's most prolific scorers, he had 52 in a 72-52 rout of Rock Island in the sectional.

16. Proviso East 37, Champaign 36, 1969 semifinals: In a quarterfinal victory over Waukegan, Proviso East's 6-foot-9 center Jim Brewer suffered a severely sprained ankle. Bob Nicolette, the University of Illinois' varsity trainer, applied an ice massage, and Brewer was able to play on Saturday. He was fouled by Champaign star Clyde Turner and converted two free throws with two seconds to play to win the semifinal. In the Pirates' 57-51 victory over Peoria Spalding in the state final, he had 17 points and nine rebounds.
17. Quincy 107, East Aurora 96, 1972 Class AA semifinals: In the highest scoring game in tournament history, East Aurora's Greg Smith scored 44 points but Quincy had more punch with Larry Moore (32 points), who shot 13-of-37, Kelvin Gott (25 points, 12 rebounds) and Don Sorenson (20 points,
13 rebounds).

18. Madison 45, Providence 43, 1981 Class A quarterfinals: Second-rated Madison overcame Mr. Basketball Walter Downing's 27-point effort, edged top-ranked Providence and went on to win the state title with a 30-2 record. Coach Larry Graham's team was led by Morris Hughes, Pat Hatter, Charles Claggett and Mark Zarr. Hughes' driving layup with seven seconds left was the difference-maker.
19. Trenton Wesclin 83, Fairbury Prairie Central 78, 2 OT, 1990 Class A championship: Brent Brede, a 6-foot-4 senior, put on one of the most exciting performances in state-final history by scoring 36 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Paul Lusk, Matt Fridley and Mike Brink also stood out as Trenton Wesclin snapped top-ranked Fairbury Prairie Central's 31-game winning streak.

20. Warsaw 92, Spring Valley Hall 85, OT, 1997 Class A championship: Warsaw overcame a five-point deficit in the last minute as Bill Heisler forced overtime with a 23-foot, three-point shot with four seconds left. Warsaw, led by Craig Wear's 29 points and 13 rebounds, went on to defeat Spring Valley Hall despite a record 51-point performance by Shawn Jepson.

21. Peoria Manual 65, Thornton 62, 1997 Class AA semifinals: After beating Thornton in the state championship games in 1995 and 1996, Peoria Manual won a duel of the state's two two-rated teams in a 1997 semifinal.

Frank Williams scored 20, Marcus Griffin 16 and Sergio McClain 14 to spark the Rams. Thornton was led by Erik Herring (22), Melvin Ely (15), Antwaan Randle El (12) and Napoleon Harris (10).

22. Thornridge 104, Quincy 69, 1972 Class AA championship: For purists, it was the gold standard of state finals, like the Chicago Bears crushing the New England Patriots in the 1986 Super Bowl. Quinn Buckner, Boyd Batts, Mike Bonczyk, Greg Rose, Ernie Dunn and their friends, a popular choice as the best team in state history, closed out a magnificent 33-0 season by blowing out Quincy 57-26 in the first half.

As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus


As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus

With less than a week until Opening Day, the Cubs' roster is all but set.

Joe Maddon told reporters in Arizona Friday the Cubs will roll with eight relievers to open the season, which doesn't come as any surprise. 

Left-handed pitcher Randy Rosario was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, leaving Eddie Butler and Shae Simmons as the two most likely guys to take the final bullpen spot.

Butler, 27, is out of minor-league options, which means if the Cubs do not keep him on their big-league roster, they risk losing him on waivers. Simmons still has two options remaining.

Butler also represents more starting pitching depth for the team beyond their five-man rotation and Mike Montgomery. Theo Epstein's front office likes to enter a season with 8-10 starting pitching options in case of injury, so it'd be hard to see the team getting rid of their No. 7 guy on that depth chart.

This spring, Butler has pitched 10 innings over five games with a 4.50 ERA and five strikeouts. He made 11 starts and two bullpen appearances with the 2017 Cubs, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.

Simmons, 27, signed with the Cubs as a free agent Feb. 16 and pitched nine games with the Seattle Mariners last year. He's appeared in four games for the Cubs this spring, pitching to a 2.45 ERA with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

In carrying eight relievers, that only leaves one position player spot available (backup catcher). Outfielder Peter Bourjos is expected to start the season in the minor leagues.

Veteran backstop Chris Gimenez will probably get the nod on the big-league roster over youngster Victor Caratini.

Gimenez comes with experience and a knowledge and relationship with Yu Darvish and we do have confirmation Darvish is making the Opening Day roster:

The Cubs really like Caratini and he's arguably their top position player prospect, but at age 24, he needs to play every day and see regular at-bats, which he wouldn't get backing up Willson Contreras in Chicago.

With that, here's the projected Cubs' Opening Day roster:


Willson Contreras
Chris Gimenez


Anthony Rizzo
Kris Bryant
Addison Russell
Javy Baez
Tommy La Stella
Ben Zobrist


Ian Happ
Kyle Schwarber
Albert Almora Jr.
Jason Heyward

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood


Brandon Morrow (closer)
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Justin Wilson
Steve Cishek
Brian Duensing
Mike Montgomery
Eddie Butler

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick.